Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Corinth Architects 06: W. Stuart Thompson

W. Stuart Thompson (1890-1968) held the fourth Fellowship in Architecture at the American School in 1912-1915. He is a unique figure for capitalizing on the possibilities of becoming the de facto School architect. Since the beginning of the architecture fellowship, the School capitalized on the availability of architects in residence to assist in the real estate development of the institution. It is interesting that the School during this period did not ever consider hiring local Greek architects for its buildings. W. Stuart Thompson received his A.B. at Columbia University in 1912 and spent two academic years in Athens. When he returned to the U.S. he built a successful private practice in partnership with Henry Churchill.

Thompson is a fascinating figure in maintaining a building career across the ocean. His designs for the School include Loring Hall, the Gennadeion Library, a proposed Benaki Museum (not built), and the Stoat of Attalos Reconstruction in Athens, Oakley House (with Richard Stillwell) and the New Museum in Corinth (picture left), the Museum at Mytilene. Outside of Greece, he designed the Farm School in Albania, the Morris Schinasi Memorial Hospital at Manisa, Turkey, and the American Hospital in Istanbul.

In the United States, he won a major award on the neighborhood planning competition of the 1939 World's Fair. In addition to houses, major American buildings include the State Tower Building in Syracuse, N.Y., the Crucible Steel Building in Chicago, Ill, the terminal of the Connecticut State Airport in Stamford, Conn., the Sterling-Winthrop research plant in Rennselaer, N.Y., academic buildings for Finch College, N.Y., the Greek Orthodox Church of the Archangels in Stamford, Conn. (modeled on the Holy Apostles in the Agora), and a proposed New York Academy of Sciences.

Unfortunately, there is very little scholarly work on W. Stuart Thompson. Interestingly enough, his building in Greece have received the greatest attention. See most notably the issue of New Griffon 7 )(2004) dedicated to the Gennadeion Library. The material evidence is ample for a Thompson research project, and we must wait for a major synthetic research project before making any important conclusions about Thompson's contribution to architecture more broadly. A casual overview of the extant material raises a number of pertinent questions outlined as follows:

  • The F.L Wright Connection. During the 1930s, Churchill and Thompson was the New York office used by Frank Lloyd Wright. This relationship needs further exploration. An important collaborator in the firm was the engineer Howard Meier, who moved to Austin and began Texan modernism. 
  • A Multi-National Firm. Why did a prominent New York firm seek out commissions in Greece and Turkey? After 1929, the office of Churchill and Thompson was severely out of work. Projects in Greece and Turkey offered an important life line to the economic survival of the firm. Thompson's role as the European agent of the operation needs investigation, as it forms a model of an early multi-national firm.
  • Labor. Connected to the loss of projects by the Great Depression, interesting issues of labor organization arise in the work of Thompson. Running projects in both Greece and Turkey meant access to a multi-national labor force. When labor strikes interrupted the construction of the Gennadeion in Athens, Thompson made an interesting move. He imported a crew of Turkish workmen directly from Istanbul. Just as Thompson was capitalizing on the loss of jobs in the U.S. by seeking projects in the east, he was capitalizing on global capital to execute his projects.
  • Historicism versus Modernism. Thompson's architectural language is interestingly poised between modernism and historicism. Looking at the houses that he designed in the U.S., we find the appropriation of the International Style as well as some conservative Georgian revival house types. Thompson & Churchill's apartment building at 137 E 57th St (demolished), for instance, is one of the earliest Bauhaus apartment buildings in New York. The New Museum in Corinth is another interesting building in this respect. The building is designed as a Byzantine monastery centered around a courtyard. Its arched openings are traditional, but it's overall language and detailing are quite modern. When completed, it was heralded by the American architectural press as a pioneering modern museum. With its modernist flair, the Corinth Museum could not be more different than the severely Neoclassical Gennadeion Library. Is Thompson's multi-lingualism in design a matter of convenience? Or is there something more to be said about seeking a synthesis. How could an architect who had dealings with Frank Lloyd Wright be responsible for the ultra-historicism of the Stoa of Attalos? Thompson was clearly educated in the Beaux Arts architectural model at Columbia University. But even his most historicist buildings are strangely severe and un-Beaux Arts. At the end of his life, Paul Cret initiated an interesting modernism arising from within the Beaux Arts, which he so successfully introduced. New scholarship on Paul Cret might elucidate Thompson's mindset.
  • Design Interface Greece - America. Maintaining a parallel practice between the U.S. and Europe, the natural question would be if one influenced the other. The answer is obvious in some cases, where the Athenian Agora excavations provided the model for the Greek Orthodox Church of Stamford. A comprehensive overview of Thompson's production in the U.S. reveals a sophisticated understanding of historical models not limited to Greece. How does his Romanesque sensitivity or his Georgian houses fit into the interface between Greece and America? 
  • Personal Links. Thompson would make a terrific case study on how friendships and professional associations were forged in the American School. Interesting members in his personal life include his wife Anna McCann, who taught art and archaeology at Swarthmore College. He seems to have been close to a number of archaeologists. What was the nature of their relationship? How was the American School's social circle maintained in the United States outside of the academic sphere? At the local level, how did Thompson's social circle congregate at Stamford, Conn., where he lived?
Select Bibliography 

Kalligas, Haris ed. 2004. Το Γεννάδειον. Δημιουργία και Μεταμόρφωσις, The New Griffon 7, Athens.
New York Times. 1968. “W Stuart Thompson, Architect, 78, Dead. Did Work in Greece,” The New York Times (April 3, 1968)
Thompson, W. Stuart. 1936. “Corinth Museum. Corinth, Greece,” The Architectural Record 80, no. 6, (Dec. 1936), pp. 465-470
Mitchell Johnson, J. and W. Mark Gunderson. 2011. A Well-Made Object: Conversations with Howard Meyer, film.
Thompson and Churchill. 1930. “Loft, Inc., 2465 Broadway, New York. Thompson and Churchill, Architects,” Architectural Record 67, no. 2 (Feb. 1930), pp. 135-137.
Thompson and Churchill. 1932. “137 East 57th Street Loft Building, New York City, Thompson and Churchill, Architects,” Architectural Record 71, no. 2 (Feb. 1932), pp. 106-110. “Charles Mayer, consulting engineer.”
Wright, Henry. 1930. “The Place of the Apartment Buidling in the Modern Community,” Architectural Record 67, no. 3 (Feb. 1930), pp. 206, 207, 295

For more Corinth Architects, see here

Monday, March 18, 2013

Corinth Architects 05: William Bell Dinsmoor

By far the most famous Fellow of Architecture at the American School was William Bell Dinsmoor (1886-1973). He was a fellow for three years, 1908-1912, but then became the first official architect of the American School. The son of an architect, Dinsmoor received his BS in Architecture from Harvard University in 1906. He became professor of architecture at Columbia University in 1935 and presided over the discipline of ancient architectural history for most of the 20th century. His Architecture of Ancient Greece (first ed. 1927), remains the foundational textbook on the field. His professional architectural practice was limited to a few years in New York (1906-1908) and the design of the concrete Parthenon in Nashville (1925-1931).

Since Dinsmoor has been well studied, I will not summarize his accomplishment but will defer to Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan's catalog of  the Dinsmoor Papers, which provides the best starting point for further readings (and source of photo left).

For more Corinth Architects, see here

Friday, March 15, 2013

Corinth Architects 04: Henry Dunn Wood

Another obscure architect at the American School was Henry Dunn Wood (1882-1940), the third Fellow in Architecture in residence in 1906-1908. Wood received his B.S. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1904, winning the Gold Medal in Design. He was a member of the first class at Penn graduating  under Paul Cret. It was known as a great class and it included Henry Hibbs, Dave Allison, Walter Mellor, Leicester Holland (also Corinth Architect), Bill Gordon, and Frank Reynolds. He received his fellowship at the American School after two years of professional practice in Philadelphia. While in Greece he worked on the Propylaia of the Acropolis, where he laid the foundations for William Bell Dinsmoor's future studies, and at the excavations of the Forum in Corinth.

Upon his return to Philadelphia Wood made a spectacular display of his drawings from Corinth (and Athens) at the 1909 annual exhibition of the American Institute of Architects in Philadelphia, which took place at he Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Among the drawings that he exhibited were the plan for the excavations, a plan for the restoration of the North side of the Forum, along with five photographs: "Church of the Holy Preparation," "Temple of Apollo," "Excavations at Corinth, North Side of Market Place," "Courtyard of a House," and "Church of Saint George." The last photo was reproduced in the Year Book of the exhibition (see above). Although labeled "Saint George" it seems to be of the old Panagia Church, where Guy D. R. Sanders excavated in the 1990s. A copy of the North Market restoration drawing displayed in Philadelphia in 1909 is housed at the Corinth Excavation archive, and I thank James Herbst for finding it (Corinth Drawing No. 020-026).

Wood was an active member of the T Square Club and the Philadelphia chapter of the American Institute of Architects since 1903 and a lecturer at Penn in 1911-1912. Just as he was ready to embark on a private architectural practice, he was offered a position at Philadelphia's large utility company United Engineers, where he rose from draughtsman to head of his department. His temperament seems to have fitted such team work. As a result, he designed many industrial plans. When his mentor, Paul Cret, received the commission for the Central Heating Plant of Washington, D.C. (left), Wood designed the building's interior.

Wood lived on a 324 Earlham Terrace in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia. He died at the age of 58, on March 26, 1940, a few days before the German invasion of Denmark and the beginning of World War II. His obituary by Paul Cret appeared in Federal Architect, a Washington journal edited by a fellow Penn student.

Select Bibliography:

Cret, Paul. 1940. “Obituary: Wood, Henry Dunn (1882-1940),” Federal Architect 10 (April 1940), p. 39.
Dinsmoor, William B. and William B. Dinsmoor, Jr. 2004. The Propylaia to the Athenian Akropolis 2: The Classical Building, Princeton."Foreword" by Charles K. Williams II, p. xxvi.
Philadelphia Chapter American Institute of Architects and T Square Club. 1909. Year Book and Catalogue of the Fifteenth Annual Architectural Exhibition, Philadelphia [pages not numbered]
University of Pennsylvania. 1904. University of Pennsylvania Proceedings of Commencement, June 15, 1904, pp. 4, 16, Philadelphia.
University of Pennsylvania. 1913. Catalogue of the University of Pennsylvania 1912-1913, p. 91, Philadelphia.

And now on a personal note. While researching Henry Wood at the Fine Arts Library at the University of Pennsylvania, I consulted the Year Books of the annual architectural exhibition in Philadelphia (which my student Chelsea Troppauer introduced me to, while working on her Preservation Master's thesis). Browsing through the 1917 issue, a magical thing happened. The very same volume I was reading was once owned by Henry D Wood. See his signature at the beginning of the volume. What serendipity. The volume that Chelsea had showed me earlier, I realized was owned by Paul Cret. The crazy thing is that Chelsea learned all about Paul Cret in my seminar on 1930s architecture two years ago at F&M. Here is Wood's signature:

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Corinth Architects 03: Gordon Allen

Gordon Allen was the second Fellow in Architecture at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Very little is known about him and he has been forgotten by the institutional history of the school. Allen graduated from Haverford College in 1898. His travel sketches were featured in the annual exhibit of the Boston Architecture Club. He was a fellow in Greece during the year 1905-1906. We have not yet determined what projects he worked on in Greece. Allen returned to the U.S. and practiced architecture in Boston. He was a member of the American Institute of Architects and served as secretary for the Boston Chapter. While in Athens, interestingly enough, he met King of Greece Constantine I and Queen Sophia, who in 1915 commissioned from him a series of buildings, most notably the suburban royal palace at Tatoi, a Home Economics School, and a Red Cross Hospital. Although raised in Germany, Queen Sophia was the grand-daughter of Queen Victoria and had met her husband during her grandmothers Jubilee in London. Sophia had an appreciation for American houses, their efficiency and sense of modernity. Allen was not in residence during the completion of the Palace in Tatoi, the project was managed by an American architect working in Istanbul. Soon after its completion, unfortunately, the Tatoi Palace was burned. It has thus receded in the architectural memory of Greece.

Select bibliography:

Adams, Frederick Johnstone. 1949. "The Plannign Schools," Town Planning Review 20 (July 1949) pp. 144-149.
American Contractor. 1915. "American Architect Builds Palace for King," The American Contractor 36 (May 8, 1915), p. 81j. (image above)
Architectural Record. 1933. "Small and Medium-Cost Houses," Architectural Record 74 (Aug. 1933), pp. 121-141.
Boston Architectural Club. 1902. "Travel Sketches," Catalogue of the Architectural Exhibition, Boston Architectural Club, p. 25, Boston.
Gordon, Allen. 1946. "A Cottage in Lancashire," The Builder 170, (Jan. 25, 1946), p. 93
Gordon, Allen. 1952. "The Vale," Old Time New England 42, no. 4, pp. 80-87.
Kardamitsi-Adami, Maro. 2009. Palaces in Greece, Athens

For more Corinth Architects, see here

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Corinth Architects 02: Gorham Stevens

Gorham Stevens (1876-1963) was the first architecture fellow at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and one the most accomplished. Stevens was born in Staten Island and received his architectural education at the earliest bastion of Beaux Arts education in America, at M.I.T. After graduation in 1899, he spend a year at the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris and travelled through Europe. Upon his return to the U.S., he began working for McKim, Mead, and White, the premier Beaux Arts firm. After a year, he received the American School Architecture Fellowship and spent a year in Greece concentrating on the study of the Erechtheion and contributing a chapter on architecture in Howard Fowler and James Wheeler's Handbook of Greek Archaeology (1909). He returned to McKim, Mead, and White in 1905. In Greece, however, he had fallen in love with Annette Notara, whom he married in 1906. As far as I can tell, Stevens is the first American School member to marry a Greek, a tradition that continues with Alice Walker Kosmopoulos (1924). In 1912, Stevens became the natural choice as director of the American School of Architecture in Rome, which merged with the American School of Classical Studies in Rome. McKim had been the School's patrons and architects of its new building. After 20 years of service to the Academy, Stevens returned to Greece in 1932 and resumed his research on Athenian monuments. He served as director of the American School during the difficult years of World War II. He formally retired in 1947 but continued to be active in the School, including involvement in the restoration of the Stoa of Attalos. He died in Athens, leaving the School his archives, his car, and an endowed scholarship.

Stevens' architectural research was centered in Athens, on monuments of the Acropolis and the Agora. His contribution to Corinth include a study of Peirene Spring and some work at Isthmia. Stevens is an important figure in the precarious bridge between the Academy in Rome and the School in Athens. He also bolstered a personal connection to leading architectural firms in the U.S. (McKim, Mead, and White and their apprentices) and to the architecture program at M.I.T. Although removed from professional practice, Stevens was a powerful architectural force at the School. His reconstructions of ancient buildings (Peirene, Marathon Dam monument, Amphipolis Lion, Stoa of Attalos) had left their mark on the archaeological landscape.

Unfortunately, the scholarly literature on Gorham Stevens is limited. General biographical information is given in Lucy Shoe's obituary (American Journal of Archaeology 68 [1964], 189-190). His Papers reside at the American School Archive in Athens, see Finding Aid compiled by Natalia Vogeikoff. Additional material is found at the American Academy in Rome records housed at the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian. For Stevens' work in Corinth and reconstruction of Peirene, see Betsey Robinson, Histories of Peirene (2012), pp. 106-107. Gorhams Stevens needs a dissertation.

Photo of Stevens above, from American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Archives
Reconstruction of Peirene above, from Corinth I.6, pl. X

For more Corinth Architects, see here

Monday, March 11, 2013

Corinth Architects 01: Introduction

The American Schools of Classical Studies in Rome and in Athens were founded by common objectives, to promote classical scholarship. The School in Rome encountered a friendly partner, the American School of Architecture, established in 1895 to serve the needs of America's growing Beaux Arts educational programs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1865), the University of Pennsylvania (1868) and Columbia University (1881). Modeled on the 17th-century French "School of Fine Arts" from which it took its name, the American Beaux Arts system required pensionnaires, or sponsored residential fellows awarded on a competitive basis (the Prix de Rome) to study classical monuments in their archaeological setting. The merging of the American Schools of Classical Studies and Architecture in 1912 brought archaeology and architectural education under the same institutional framework. Thus, it was common for students of archaeology to interact with figures such as A. M. Robert Stern, Leon Krier, or Robert Venturi under one common roof.

In contrast to the American Academy, the American School of Classical Studies at Athens did not share the cross-fertilization between architects and classicists institutionally central to life in Rome. The School in Athens surpassed Rome, however, in archaeological activities and needed professional staff to manage the architectural complexity of its excavations. Rather than a coherent architectural system of study, the need for architectural staff ushered the architectural discipline into the School in Athens through the back door. An established program in Architectural Fellowships brought a crop of architects through the excavations in Corinth and Athens during the first three decades of the 20th century. Lacking the prestige of the Grand Prix de Rome, these architects have receded from the institutional memory of the American School with the exception of a few fellows who made themselves more permanent in Greece either by turning into professional archaeologists or monopolizing the School's architectural commissions. 

It is the lack of scholarship on the architects of the School that has led the beginnings of this research project. The meticulous organization of the Corinth architectural drawings by James Herbst (and their digitization) has further motivated a fresh look into the architects of Corinth. I will share the research on this blog, and attempt to synthesize some preliminary research. James Herbst and I hope that this study will ultimately create a more permanent expression, an article, book, or exhibit.

So, who are the Architects of Corinth and how did they end up in Corinth? As the excavations in Corinth proceeded at the turn of the 20th century, it became clear that the employment of a professional architect was necessary. A position of Fellow in Architecture was, thus, created in 1903. A grant from the Carnegie Corporation financed the fellowship during its early years (1904-1912). The Fellowship program terminated in 1933 after supporting a total of 12 architects:

Gorham Phillips Stevens, 1903-1906  (B. S. Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Gordon Allen, 1905-1906 (A.B. Harvard College)
Henry Dunn Wood, 1906-08 (B.S. University of Pennsylvania)
William Bell Dinsmoor, 1908-12  (B.S. Harvard College)
W. Stuart Thompson, 1913-15 (A.B. Columbia University)
Leicester Bodine Holland, 1920-21 (B.S. University of Pennsylvania)
Richard Stillwell, 1924-1926 (A.B. Princeton University)
William Vaughn Cash, 1925-1926 (B. S. Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Lyman C. Douglas, 1928-1930 (A.B. Haverford College)
Allen Squire, 1930-1931 (B.F.A. Yale University)
Julian H. Whittlesey, 1930-31(B.F.A. Yale University)
Joseph M. Shelley, 1931-1933 (Ph.D. Yale University)

In addition to the official architecture fellows, a number of other architects joined the excavations, unofficially contributing to the architectural culture of Corinth. Those were:

Henry Bacon, American architect (famous for Lincoln Memorial)
Wulf Schaefer, German architect (PhD on Nauplion, Technical University Danzig, 1936)
Piet de Jong, British architect
Georg Vinko von Peschke, Austrian artist
Youry Fomine, Russian-French artist
Dorothy Cox (B.Arch. Columbia University)
Marion Rawson (courses in Architecture, Columbia University)

In addition to documenting archaeological buildings, the fellows were also brought into the service of the School's own architectural projects in Athens, Corinth, and Samos (Loring Hall, Gennadeion Library, Samos Museum, Oakley House, Corinth Museum, etc.) Many of the fellows returned to architectural practice in the U.S. but little attention has been given to the relationship between their professional practice and their archaeological apprenticeship.

It is also interesting that after the 1930s, after World War II, the program of architectural fellowships terminates any organic interaction between America and Greece. One notable exception is Charles K. Williams II, who practiced architecture at the office of Philip Johnson before becoming director of excavations in Corinth. The American School turned almost entirely to Greek architects for its archaeological staff after the 1930s, and most notably to John Travlos. Some of them are obscure and warrant some research. Those post-war Greek architects are

John Travlos
Elias Scroubelos
S. L. Doukas
... and others

For a general introduction to American architecture education, archaeology and the culture of drafting, see the following:

Johnston, George Barnett. 2008. Drafting Culture: A Social History of Architectural Graphic Standards, Cambridge, Mass.

Neumann, Dietrich. 2002. “Teaching the History of Architecture in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland: ‘Architekturgeschichte’ vs. ‘Bauforschung’,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 61, pp. 370-380

Ockman, Joan. 2012. Architecture School: Three Centruies of Educating American Architects, Cambridge, Mass
Yegül, Fikret K. 1991. Gentlemen of Instinct and Breeding: Architecture at the American Academy in Rome 1894-1940, New York and Oxford

For more Corinth Architects, see here

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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States